National Weather Service: Think Social Training

For the last several years the National Weather Service has been rolling out social media accounts for all of their 122 field offices. Each office now has a Facebook page, Twitter handle and YouTube account to better communicate our life saving messages to the public. As these accounts were being rolled the NWS did some basic training on how to use Facebook and Twitter, but it soon became clear that more in-depth training was needed to help NWS forecasters best use their new social media platforms.

The NWS Southern Region social media team took the lead and began to give monthly and, occasionally weekly social media training to all of the NWS field and regional offices. These presentations usually lasted an hour and ranged from broad topics like “Facebook Basic” and “How do you tweet”, to more niche presentations such as “How to run a Facebook photo contest” or “How to Handle Trolls and Negative Nellies.”

During the presentations, NWS employees interacted with presenters and each other via Twitter using the hashtag #NWSThinkSocial. The presentations were also recorded and uploaded to YouTube. Since most NWS forecasters work rotating shifts, many times it was easier for them to catch up on missed training by watching the videos. All the training was conducted by in-house NWS personnel. So far over 25 presentations have been given by people from over 30 different NWS offices. To date the presentations have been attended by over 1,000 people, and the videos of the presentation have been viewed over 2,000 times.

In addition to the training, a Google Sites page was created to archive links to the presentations and videos. The page is also a place for best practices and templates to be shared. The training and hard work of NWS employees has born out some great results. As of March 1st, the NWS Facebook pages had a combined total of almost 2,000,000 fans, and their Twitter accounts had over 800,000 combined followers. NWS Facebook posts are used by local and national media outlets in weather briefings and NWS tweets are consistently the top U.S. Government tweets. The National Weather Service is well on its way to taking full advantage of getting our messages out via various social media channels.

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